Monday, June 26, 2006

Oracle PeopleSoft Version 9

Oracle today took yet another step in reassuring its existing PeopleSoft customer base:

"Oracle Corp. today released Version 9 of its PeopleSoft Enterprise application suite, an upgrade the company said will prepare customers to move toward a service-oriented architecture (SOA).Oracle, which completed a $10.3 billion buyout of PeopleSoft in January 2005, has told its customers that it will continue to support the products from its former competitor.The new release is integrated with Oracle's Fusion Middleware, a portfolio of server software that allows applications from different vendors to interoperate. The integration allows better use of other Oracle technologies, including XML Publisher, Business Activity Monitoring and Customer Data Hub, the company said.Oracle said the Version 9 release adds features related to corporate governance and compliance, CRM improvements for customer service agents, and enterprise-level planning. The company also expanded capabilities for areas such as the public sector, health care, financial services, communications and higher education."

Good news for PeopleSoft customers, although they are still being encouraged to retire their old code base to prepare for migration to Fusion. Read the full news here and here.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Oracle - Event-Driven Middleware Suite

Oracle announced its Event-Driven Middleware Suite recently. Has not gotten the coverage we expect from bloggers though. Here are some excerpts from the press release:

"Oracle(r) Event-Driven Architecture Suite iscomprised of best-in-class Oracle Fusion Middleware products that allowcustomers to sense, identify, analyze and respond to business events inreal-time. EDA is a key component of SOA 2.0, the next-generation ofservice-oriented architecture (SOA) that defines how events andservices are linked together to deliver a truly flexible and responsiveIT infrastructure.

Organizations using an EDA can gain a competitive advantage by responding more rapidly to changing business conditions. Current infrastructures for processing and managing events, however, are limited and require complex and expensive software engineering. Oracle EDA Suite includes a design time environment to easily define and correlate events; Oracle Enterprise Service Bus to collect and distribute events; Oracle Business Rules to define business policies on events; Oracle Business Activity Monitoring to monitor and analyze Business Events; and pre-built solutions for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and other systems.

Companies in a broad range of industries - including financial services, commercial banking, securities trading, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, retail, government and manufacturing - can now use Oracle EDA Suite to become a real-time enterprise by enabling them to build, deploy and manage EDAs. Leading manufacturing and distribution companies are using EDAs to optimize supply chain and vendor management; leading retailers are using EDAs to optimize inventory management using RFID; and global financial services institutions are using EDAs to optimize financial positions and hedging strategies in the financial markets.

Leveraging Oracle Fusion Middleware'shot-pluggable architecture, Oracle EDA Suite is interoperable withOracle Containers for J2EE and non-Oracle application servers includingBEA WebLogic Server, IBM WebSphere Application Server and JBossApplication Server along with messaging buses such as Oracle AdvancedQueuing, SonicMQ, Tibco Enterprise JMS and WebSphereMQ. The offeringincludes native support to create, process, analyze and manage eventsand provides a flexible, declarative environment to rapidly build andadapt event-driven applications"

IMHO: Sounds interesting, even with all the jargon thrown in. SOA's delivery capability on all it promises is still suspect, especially as the organization that deploys SOA does not reap benefits rapidly. Rather, a network effect is needed, necessitating widespread adoption, to unleash the full and supposedly immense power of SOA. Wait and see. The problem is that most target organizations for SOA might also adopt the same approach. SOA 2.0? Sounds very far-off to me.....


Monday, June 19, 2006

The flaw in the Software Services Business Model

Robert X. Cringely writes:

"IBM is a disaster-in-the-making. Big Blue as a total enterprise is running primarily on customer inertia and clever advertising, which definitely isn't enough.

One aspect of IBM's malaise is the disconnect between the traditional public image of the company (basic research, advanced R&D, patents, patents, patents) and the fact that most of their revenue-generating businesses aren't about hardware or software products at all, but services. Why continue to spend all that money if you're mainly just a business/IT consulting company made up of IGS and Price Waterhouse? Why, indeed.Here's what's happening with IBM. The heart of a company culture can be discovered if you look at the compensation system. IBM's major incentives right now are for signing business and cutting costs. In many IT firms, IBM included, billable hours are important. This results in a system where little is done to improve service efficiency, because doing so would lead to fewer hours and less revenue. Efficiency kills, so at today's IBM it is generally avoided.

The result is that an increasing number of customers are unhappy with IBM, signings are harder, so there is less return business. To get that signing incentive, IBM's sales folks are now under-pricing deals. The people who do the actual work are still expected to show a profit though, even if one wasn't designed into the contract in the first place. So to still be profitable, they under-deliver on the contract, and this leads to an even lower quality of service. What I am describing is a death spiral that top IBM management either doesn't see or simply doesn't want to admit."

IMHO: Hit the nail right on the head there. But this the case with almost every Software Services firm. The flaw is in the business model, where the charge is by time, and not by the result of that time spent. More the time spent on doing the little bit allocated to you, more is the money you make. Of course it needs a certain bit of naivete in the customer community as well for this model to work, and whatever else they may be, enterprise customers are not naive. So, how come it is working? Because the costs are low, and the quality is higher than what one intuitively expects for that cost. At least in the offshoring scenario. I am talking about the direct, visible costs here. Because, my hypothesis is that opportunity cost of the time and effort of the client is seldom taken into account. Truth be told, I have a feeling, the cost would still be comparable to nearshoring.

While offshore vendors have invested in getting certifications galore, like CMMi and ISO and what not, the hazard still remains that quality/ efficiency/ productivity will always be second rung to billable time/ loading factor. The alternative is the Fixed Bid model, followed by pioneers like GE, in which the incentive shifts back to the vendor to deliver efficiently to derive greater returns. One surmises that the number of such engagements should increase over time. Time to beef up estimation expertise as well for offshore vendors who severly lack it, but that is a story for another day....